Buechner's fourth memoir (after The Sacred Journey, Now and Then, and Telling Secrets) is a hopeful rumination on family, loss, and faith. The recent deaths of the author's older brother and his lifelong friend, poet James Merrill, remind him of earlier losses--his father's suicide and the death of his beloved grandmother Naya. The birth of a grandchild forces Buechner to focus on the present, reminding him that life goes on and that forgotten familial characteristics remain for generations to come. "The Magic Kingdom," Buechner's nickname for his study, office, and library, gives him the necessary space for writing and meditating. The rooms are filled with family archives, irreplaceable books and mementos that inspire the author to connect past and present and look beyond his life to his grandchildren's future. An impressive addition to Buechner's oeuvre, which includes over 30 critically acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction.--Pam Kingsbury, Florence, AL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
A memoir of death may seem a contradiction in terms, but that is what Buechner, Presbyterian minister and prolific writer (best known for his novel Godric, 1980) has given us. Here we meet the dead who haunt his heart–his grandmother; his friend and fellow wordsmith James Merrill; his father, who committed suicide; and his brother. Buechner, trustworthy and slightly self-effacing, offers his meditations on death with a characteristically light touch. Unlike so many writers who weigh in on the ultimate questions, Buechner never winds up sounding like a pompous ass. A "hopelessly religious person," Buechner is the doubter's Christian, ever suspect of the believer whose faith life is not shot through with doubt. The Eyes of the Heart captures that skepticism: Without losing sight of his Christian convictions, Buechner wonders what will happen after he dies, asking his grandmother, who pooh-poohs the question, to describe being dead. Bibliophiles will enjoy The Eyes of the Heart because it is framed by a tour through Buechner's study; we browse through his first edition Oz books and the copy of Gone With the Wind in which Buechner's father wrote a final note to Buechner's mother. Early in the book, Buechner tells us, "There are such wonderful books in [my study] that I expect people to tremble with excitement, as I would, on entering it for the first time, but few of them do because they don't know or care enough about books to have any idea what they are seeing." It seems, at first, a throwaway line, but the image stays with you as you read, for Buechner is not just referring to books, but to God and the wonder and fragility of human life as well. One hopes in the same way thatreaders will know what they are seeing when they pick up The Eyes of the Heart.